Live Blog: England 23 Ireland 22 f/t

Live Blog: England 23 Ireland 22 f/t

Expectations are hugely high for this Irish side – a situation which in the past has resulted in them becoming tentative and conservative. Can they handle the psychological pressure of being 12 point favourites for the match? They need to trust themselves and each other just to give it a lash from the off. Do not allow England to gain the initiative and get the crowd behind them. England are brilliant at defending a lead. Less composed if they have to chase from behind. Let the battle commence!

Ireland get a handy penalty early but England counter and Lawrence scores in the corner, Nash having been injured in the tackle. With a 6:2 bench, Frawley will have to cover the wing as he goes off for a HIA which he subsequently failed.. 5-3.

Scrum penalty against Furlong and then Ireland lose a line-out. All the momentum is with England but Ireland defend well. The match is being played at 100 miles an hour. So much for some predictions that England would try to slow it down. Ford having missed a difficult conversion, makes a considerably easier penalty. 8-3. Crowley returns the compliment: 8-6 on 20 minutes.

Bundee has been making the gainline, but is tackled into touch. Chessum is injured in the process. England put a penalty in the corner but Beirne steals it as the breakdown. A grubber nearly creates an England try but it is called back by the TMO for a knock-on. Ireland are on the rack but win the scrum and clear for a brilliant touch. England are held up in the tackle and Ireland get a good touch but are penalised for early on the lifter at the line-out.

Bundee is penalised for off-side at the pillar and Ford uncharcteristically misses a relatively easy kick. Frawley deals capably with two Ford bombs and Ireland appear to have weathered the storm . Bundee wins in the jackle. Crowley attempts from 48 metres into the swirling wind and just makes it! Ireland are in the lead despite having been under the kosh for most of the match. 8-9.

Ireland can’t trouble the England line-out but win their scrums and Lowe finally makes a brilliant touch on the England 25. England are offside after another good carry by Aki – he has been the Ireland player of the match so far. Crowley nails it and Ireland lead 8-12 at half time. England must be wondering how they could be behind after scoring a brilliant try and having the bulk of the possession and territory.

Crowley has won his duel with Forde and Lowe has finally found his kicking boots. Ireland haven’t had much ball in attack but have been reasonably effective with ball in hand. They will be delighted to have weathered the storm and determined to dominate from here on in. Ireland’s defence has been reasonably solid and the forwards have carried well.

The Referee, Nika Amashukeli, has been clear and consistent in his communication and decision making and the match has been the best of the 6N so far. But Ireland will need to improve to put this match to bed. They got out of jail a couple of times. England are dominating territory and possession and winning the kicking game.

England are finally penalised for coming in from the side, and Ireland win the line-out. James Lowe scores in the corner after a brilliantly times back-line move. Crowley misses by inches. 8-17. England counter with a great try of their own, but Ford misses the the touchline conversion. 13-17.

I can see England bringing on Smith soon. If Ford can’t make his kicks, what is he in the team for? Frawley has to go off for a HIA with Gibson Park moving to the wing. He deals brilliantly with two bombs. Ireland are still struggling to impose themselves. Ben Early makes a run worthy of a centre. They lose a line-out and O’Mahoney is yellow carded. England are playing brilliantly and get the try despite some great defence by Ireland. Smith nails the conversion and the Irish bench come on. 20-17.

This has been a test match to rival any matches Ireland have played in recent times, and several steps up from recent England performances. Ryan Baird comes on as O.Mahony’s yellow card expires but Ireland can make no inroads on the England line-out. Another jackal and Ireland win their line-out and Lowe gets in in the corner. Crowley can’t make the touchline conversion. 20-22.

Ireland are pinged for not rolling away and Daly misses from distance. England get on the attack again but are forced into touch. It’s all hands on deck with two minutes to go. Henderson takes the line-out and Ireland clear. But Conan is injured and Ireland have no subs left. Smith nails a drop goal and England win.

It has been a match for the ages with England playing brilliantly and Ireland playing well if not outstandingly. Our line-out wasn’t great and we found it difficult to get into the game. But overall it is a case of a great England performance with the injuries to Nash and Frawley not helping our cause. It could have gone either way, but neither can we claim this was a great injustice. In truth it was a case of fine margins and we were just second best on the day.


Live Blog: Italy 31 versus Scotland 29 F/T

Scotland are on fire after their fourth successive win against England and yet I have this sneaking suspicion they may not be taking Italy seriously enough. Italy are unlikely to commit the sort of schoolboy errors which undermined England against Scotland, and home advantage still counts for something. The Italian pack is not as strong as higher ranked nations, but do Scotland have the pack to take advantage? If Italy can contain Finn Russell and Van Der Merve, they are in with a good chance.

The referee is very lenient on quite a few Scottish “knock-ons” deeming them to be backwards which is correct, in my view, but which are often called by other referees. Scotland score a good try by Fagerson and Russell continues his outstanding record off the tee. 3-7. Scotland really are on fire and score another try through Steyn. Once again the referee is very lenient with a Scottish player on the wrong side of the ruck. 3-14

A beautiful dink by Garbisi leads to a try by Brex 10-14 with only 15 minutes gone! A soft Russell penalty is followed by a mauled try by Schoeman to make it 10-22 with Russell missing his first kick in a long time.  Italy are still too slow getting tee on for a Garbisi penalty but he nails it for 13-22. It’s helter-skelter stuff from both sides. Capuozzo nails a long range penalty and then is held up over the line by Van Der Merve. Incredibly Italy could have gone into half time ahead had he got it down.  Instead its 16-22 h/t after a very open game of rugby.

Scotland gave a try chalked off for an off-the-ball tackle by Schoeman, and then Lynagh scores a try on his debut following another accurate dink behind the frontlien defence.. Garbisi misses a sitter of a conversion having just missed a penalty to touch. Italy are doing their best to let Scotland off the hook. 21-22

Capuozzo managed to tackle Van Der Merve into touch. Scotland look rattled and are starting to concede a lot of penalties. Varney finally gets over in the 57th. minute. Garbisi nails the much more difficult conversion 28-22. Both sides are making a lot of mistakes but Italy are well worth their lead. In contrast to the first half, Italy are dominating possession 57-43%. But have they the moral courage to keep playing the way that got them the lead in the first place?  The match is starting to lose momentum but the Italian scrum wins a penalty with Schoeman substituted off.

Van Der Merve gets greedy and doesn’t give what might have been a scoring pass to Price. Garbisi nails a long range penalty to make it a two score game. 31-22. Scotland manages to score from close in under the posts and have 2 minutes to win the match. Scotland attack for almost 30 phases but can’t get passed a stout Italian defence. An outstanding and long overdue win for Italy in front of a sell-out 70,000 crowd.


Live Blog: England u.20 32 Ireland u.20  32 f/t.

Playing in front of a packed Rec in Bath, England got off to a dream start with a try converted from the touchline. A Ben O’Connor fumble leading to a dominant England scrum penalty. All our worst fears of a  powerful England scrum  are being realised with loosehead, Opoku-Fordjour (Sale Sharks), who has packed down against Porter at senior level, destroying the Irish scrum.

A brilliant cross-kick by Murphy, leads to Treacy outpacing the home defence for an outstanding riposte. 10-10 after 20 minutes seemed a really good outcome. But Ireland are quite brilliant in attack and have a try disallowed for a very marginal forward pass. Another spectacular attack by the Irish backs results in amazing try by O’Conner. 10-15.

A few knock-ons by Ireland off restarts and kicks are keeping England in the game.  Ireland are beating the rush defence with quick passing or cross kicking to a wide-lying winger. Murphy’s kicking from hand has been outstanding. A few marginal calls are going against Ireland and keeping England in the game a harsh penalty resulting in a 13-15 half time score line.

England have just one thing going for them – a dominant scrum which they use to try and force a penalty every time. Ireland are far superior in every other facet, and especially in their back-line. The match is still very much in the balance. Forwards usually decide who wins a match, but Ireland still have something to say about that!

Incredibly, Ireland win a scrum penalty and a poor pass ruins a try scoring opportunity. But McLaughlin scores in the corner after another brilliant move by Ireland. 13-20. Murphy has now narrowly missed two difficult conversions. Ben O’Conner has great pace and ability to turn defence into attack, but England score off a cross-kick when they broke the line for lack of a pillar defence. 18-20.

Another scrum penalty to Ireland and Ireland score their bonus point try off a line-out maul, but the touchline conversion hits the post.. 18-25. Ireland are starting to get on top in some of the forward play as well but England come back strongly, and their big forwards get over the line. It’s 25-25 on 69 minutes.

This match is still in the balance but the Irish midfield could still swing it our way. Ireland concede another scrum penalty and then a penalty at the maul. Despite heroic defence against Englan’ds huge ball carrying forwards, Ireland concede in the corner. 32-25.

Concerted Irish pressure leads to a penalty advantage and they get over the line in the 83rd. minute. This was a great match between to magnificent sides and Naughton nails the conversion. Outstanding performance by all concerned.

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